Well, I hate to spoil our "We know so much better than crusty, old schools" party, but Drake University, "a private, fully accredited, coeducational university on a 120-acre campus in Des Moines, Iowa", seems to be way ahead of the curve on this one. They implemented just such a system. And they did it in 2001. To those of you with short memories, they launched this way back when you couldn't watch foreign-language videos on YouTube or listen to language-learning podcasts on your iPod because, well, when it launched, YouTube, podcasts, and even the iPod didn't exist.
So what exactly has Drake been doing since they jettisoned their language faculty?
Here are the outlines of their approach.
Over the semester, students meet with a Ph.d.-holding linguist to cover grammar questions in English, go over how they're doing, etc. The linguist's main role seems to be a coordinating one.Drake's method seems to be spreading slowly, with some schools adding additional advancements. Inside Higher Ed describes the case of Abilene Christian University:
Abilene Christian piloted Mandarin during the 2008-9 academic year using the Drake model of a supervising professor and a native speaker conversation partner. The professor … was in Beijing, and on-campus graduate students fluent in Mandarin led discussions. Arabic is taught by a professor in Tunisia.Now that technologies like Skype are so commonplace, native-speaker teachers who live in their native countries seems like such a no-brainer to me.
And, most importantly, the model seems to be working. According to Inside Higher Ed:
There has been no comprehensive study of how Drake’s students compare to students who learn languages in a more traditional way. But the anecdotal evidence is there, many times over, said Jan Marston, director of [Drake's program] from its founding until last year.I can't say I'm surprised. The approach they're taking jives much more with what I've found in my own experience than any more traditional approach.
When students trained at the Des Moines, Iowa, university study abroad, she said, “they’re placed in classes way above where the seat time would indicate they should be.” Students report back that while other students in their programs abroad speak English to each other, “Drake students are speaking Russian to the Russians.”
Marc Cadd, who directs Drake’s [program currently] said students are generally placed two semesters ahead of where they would be at Drake when they study elsewhere. For instance, students who had finished Drake’s Spanish 101 and 102 classes would likely be placed into a third-year language class when studying abroad in a Spanish-speaking country “primarily on the strength of their speaking skills."
So, Drake University, my hat's off to you. Your program is by far closer to how I would have liked to have learned languages in college, and your results certainly do seem to show it. (And someone might want to tell Steve Kaufmann to give these guys a call, given just how similar their system is to LingQ's.)
Outsourcing Language Learning [Inside Higher Ed]
Languages without Language Faculty [Inside Higher Ed]
World Languages and Cultures [Drake University]